Summer has finally arrived, and if you are lucky this means there are travel plans in your future. Summer is the most popular time of year for travel, which also means it can be one of the most expensive. Planning ahead is the best way to save money on travel, but even if you haven’t been searching for deals since January, you can still benefit from a little travel savvy if you start planning now.
- Establish your budget. How much can you afford to spend, in total, on your summer vacation? Knowing this number will help you plan every aspect of your trip, from accommodations, to transportation, to activities. It will also help motivate you to save money as your trip approaches, so that if you save well enough you can splurge on a special meal or activity.
- Be flexible. The best travel deals are found by people who have flexibility in their travel plans. The more flexible you are, the better deals you can find. Flexible about where you are going? Use the “Explore” mode on Kayak.com to find flights all over the world within your budget. This fun tool allows you to pick a departure city, set a maximum cost and length of flight, and see all of your travel options. Flexible on dates? Transportation and hotel costs typically go up on weekends and around holidays. You can save a significant amount of money by picking less popular days/weeks. Flexible about accommodations? Today’s travelers have a wide range of options, from sharing a room in an Airbnb, to luxury hotels, to glamping. Think outside the box and you may find a great deal.
- Consider ALL the costs. Sometimes one option can look like a better deal, until you consider all of the costs. Staying outside the city center may save you money on accommodations, but make sure you account for parking or taxi fare if you are still going to travel into the city each day. Hotels that include breakfast, or an Airbnb with a kitchen may be worth more if it helps cut down on your overall food costs. Flying on a discount airline isn’t always cheaper once you add in luggage fees. Don’t let one aspect of a deal trick you into thinking it is the lowest cost option until you have accounted for the complete cost.
- Shop around. It is amazing how much prices can vary from website to website, or from day to day. Aggregating sites like Expedia, Hotels.com, or Google Flights are great for searching for deals, but once you find a deal, check out that airline or hotel’s website as well. You might find better prices or special offers by booking on the company’s site directly. This also applies to package vacation deals. Don’t assume that the bundle is giving you the lowest price- check costs of the individual items yourself.
- Find free activities. Once you have arrived and are enjoying your vacation, there are still relatively pain-free ways to avoid going over budget. Daily expenses add up quickly, particularly if you are traveling with a large family. Most places that you would vacation have a wide variety of free activities, if you know where to find them. Online searches and travel guides are your friend for finding free or low-cost activities that fit your travel style. Search for “free rainy day activities”, “kids activities”, or “budget friendly travel” along with the closest city and you will likely find a range of things to do.